Blu-Ray Review: We’re the Millers

We're the Millers

This was the comedy smash of the summer? I mean, I didn’t think We’re the Millers was going to be great. It was always going to be a comedy that thought a striptease in bra and panties was raunchy, and I trust Witney’s review, but if it made $150 million from August to November, there must be something that made people laugh. No, We’re the Millers is as unfunny as The Internship with only slightly better values. At least it’s honest about strippers. The Internship made me embarrassed for the good name of our adult entertainers.

Drug dealer Dave (Jason Sudeikis) owes his supplier Brad (Ed Helms) for a stash of cash that got stolen in a convoluted set of circumstances involving his neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter) and a local homeless girl Casey (Emma Roberts). So Brad sends him to Mexico to smuggle an RV full of marijuana across the border. It occurs to Dave that he looks too suspicious, so he has Kenny, Casey and the local stripper Rose (Jennifer Anniston) pose as his family.

I knew this whole movie was going to end up with the “Millers” becoming a real family. Them’s just the breaks in movies like this, but I found it offensive that the opening scene shows Dave as a forlorn loner longing for a family. We haven’t even met him as an antihero and the movie is already worried we won’t like him enough. It’s not enough to be contrived, you have to foreshadow how contrived you’re going to be too?

We're the Millers Luis Guzman

Further situations arise when the “Millers” are on the road where Dave ends up giving Kenny some fatherly advice. Dave and Rose end up telling The Fitzgerald family (Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn) how they met, and that they hated each other so much it’s obviously going to turn into love. Eventually Dave even worries about his “daughter.”

That all could be cute if there were some jokes to hang on this pap. Instead we get mix-ups over pesos and dollars. Really? Also, can we all please agree that singing old songs out loud is not funny? Not when it’s TLC in this movie. Not when it’s Alanis Morisette in The Internship. It’s not a joke. A punk with a misspelled tattoo is kind of funny. The RV family mispronounces the word “tampon.” None of those mild laughs are based on the movie’s actual premise. They’re just thrown in there.

The kissing scene actually goes somewhere. It’s the only moment where the film actually plays the fake Miller family for laughs. Other set pieces involve major threads set up with no real solutions. In a pinch, the Millers wrap a bag of weed in a blanket and pretend it’s a baby. Mrs. Fitzgerald keeps insisting on holding the baby, and the writers never had a way out of this situation. SPOILER ALERT for a non-joke: when Rose can’t keep Mrs. Fitzgerald away from the weed baby anymore, she throws it into the road where it gets run over by a truck. Casey thinks to explain that it’s just a school project to carry around a “baby,” and that they just forgot to specify before that it was a fake baby. That’s not a funny or clever solution, and they just expect the audience to expect the Fitzgeralds to believe that the Millers act like crazy people. That passes for a joke.

We're the Millers Cast

The writers have inserted F-words into the same old safe, generic banter so there are no actual dirty jokes. Or perhaps the actors were just told to improvise F-words into their dialogue or ad-libs. Rose calls Dave a fuckin’ idiot. Casey asks, “What is your fucking problem?” Kenny even just exclaims a big old “fuuuuuuuck.” They don’t know how to use the F-word. It reminds me of when I worked at a movie theater when Pulp Fiction came out, and some of the older clientele felt the language in Tarantino’s movie was gratuitous. Here is the ultimate test: Take the fucks out of Pulp Fiction and you’ll see it doesn’t have the same power or flow. Take the fucks out of We’re the Millers and it is exactly the same movie.

Sudeikis is a leading man. His inflection alone makes a lot of this material palatable, and his indifference to the craziness around him goes a long way. He does resort to making a lot of movie references, whether that was his own improv or what he was forced to say by the script. “Real life Flanders” is funny but by the time he’s mentioning Pretty Woman, Bane, Precious and 8 Mile in the first act, that’s not hip. It’s weird. Is that Dave’s thing that he does? Because Dave doesn’t make enough references for it to be his character.

We're the Millers Blu-rayIf the extended cut on the Blu-ray adds any more jokes, I’m a bit too numb to The Millers at this point to tell them apart. It definitely adds a few seconds of filler to Aniston’s mechanic garage strip tease scene. It’s a ridiculous bit of business explaining how she comes up with the way to distract the bad guys so they can get away. It actually makes the characters less clever.

We’re the Millers looks like a movie. It’s polished, brightly lit, and the Blu-ray has that perfect picture. With Hollywood lighting and equipment you can make the roadside look better than real life. That kind of aesthetic is enough to make you feel like you may be being entertained, even if you’re not. I think that’s one of the tricks to some of these movies. Just make it look like a movie and you feel like you’re watching a movie, even if there was no real content to speak of. If you ever find yourself getting suckered into one of those, just remember how Clerks persevered on the power of that script alone. Funny doesn’t have to look pretty, in fact it’s often better when it doesn’t.

The bonus features show that they are going to more effort trying to sell the idea that this is funny than actually making a funny comedy. There are altogether way too many featurettes about much fun everybody had and how great everyone’s improv was. Even though they each only run about 2-3 minutes, they’re really overselling it. By the way, the improv they cut out of the movie is not funny. In the deleted scenes, there are three different versions of the Luis Guzman scene. None of them are funny. There’s even more “Waterfalls” nonsense.

To be fair, these bonus features are designed under the assumption that someone is buying the Blu-ray because they like the movie, so they are giving you more where that came from. If you’re reading this Blu-ray review because you loved We’re the Millers and want to know how awesome the Blu-ray is, I think you’re in luck. At a certain point, waiting for laughs just made me mad. 

4


Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Best Episode Ever and Shelf Space Weekly. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.